- With very little space to themselves, the couples had to find things to fill their days.
- These two couples told Insider that the cruise ship worked hard to keep their guests happy during less than ideal circumstances.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories .
On February 4, the nearly 4,000 passengers and crew aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship touring Japan got scary news: a man had been diagnosed with the new coronavirus.
The next day, the whole ship was put under a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
After nearly two weeks, about 300 American passengers were evacuated back to the states and held at a military base in Lackland, Texas, for another two weeks.
The passengers were finally released earlier this week.
For even the happiest of couples, that's a lot of time to spend in close quarters with your spouse.
Here's how two couples, neither of which was diagnosed with the illness, handled the stress and isolation of multiple quarantines.
The responses are condensed and lightly edited prior to publication.
Gay and Phil Courter, of Crystal River, Florida .
Business Insider: When you told you were in quarantine, what was your reaction?
Gay: Well, first it was a 24-hour hold.
Then it was the captain saying it was a 14-day quarantine.
At first, we were amenable to it.
We had a balcony overlooking the pier but all we could see were ambulances coming and going, and the number of ambulances coming every morning increased from 10 to 20 to 30 to 40.
The captain would tell us every day about the number of people who had tested positive and those numbers would go up exponentially.
We were frightened because obviously, it was not the safest place to be. We were not seeing any other passengers, we only saw deliveries three times a day
We wondered where in the world the infection was coming to us, was it coming through the air condition vents? Where was it coming from?
Then we decided to announce a media campaign so that t he American people knew that we absolutely needed their help to come home and we were not safe on that ship, and indeed, it worked.
BI: What were some of the things you did to fill your days?
Gay: The media campaign is basically what we did 12 hours a day, no kidding.
We've had a documentary film company together for 40 years and Phil documented everything: from everything that came over the loudspeaker, to all of the action at the pier, to what it was like living in that room, the food we got. Everything.
And I'm a writer, so as my son said to me "isn't it a writer's dream to be locked up in a room for a few weeks with a great story to tell?" So I wrote a book proposal.
So that was fine, it kept us really engaged and busy and doing what we do, which is documenting.
BI: Did you ever have moments that you felt stir crazy?
Gay: For some reason, we tolerated the cruise ship better than the quarantine in Texas, even though it was a smaller space. It was comfortable.
We had a nice balcony and every few days the ship would actually go out to sea.
It was like this very weird cruise to nowhere
Once they got organized and put food in everyone's room two or three times a day, the food was excellent. The pastry chef went crazy to keep us happy. I think he wanted to kill us with death by chocolate instead of the virus.
There was some really good entertainment. There was a spirit on the cruise ship of everyone pitching in, there was something about it that was easier to live with than when we got to Texas.
On one hand, it was much more difficult to live through the one in Texas, we knew we were physically safe. Where the time on the cruise ship was a little more lighthearted, we didn't feel safe.
Emotionally, on the ship, we really feared for our lives.
We're in our 70s and were in a higher risk category and the death rate is quadruple for our age group, so we felt panic of having to get the hell out of it.
In Texas, something about the space there, I started to feel claustrophobic for the first time in my life.
I know we clearly have symptoms of PTSD and are arranging to deal with that.
BI: By the end, did you and your husband get under each other's skin?
Gay: We've been married for almost 52 years, we've got a joint business and we've been together 24/7.
But this was the most irritating part of our lives.
I think with the heightened tension of the situation, we had very little tolerance for little lapses of courtesy.
My husband who helps around the house and is fine, turned into Oscar from "The Odd Couple." Everything had to be picked up all the time. I think he wanted to grab my plate and throw it away before I was done. Which is not his personality.
And I became less interested in that. I became sloppier. I just didn't have the energy to worry about "where does this go?," "should I wash the laundry in the sink?" These things became a little overwhelming to me.
So I would say we definitely had a lot more irritation than is normal for us.
But also, when you are more irritated with your partner, that's a sign of depression and mental health issues. That was because our nerves were raw.
BI: You spent Valentine's Day on the boat. What was that like?
Gay: Valentine's Day was really exciting because we finally got the throat swabs that we had wanted.
I remember Valentines Day for the throat swabs and also because the captain and staff overwhelmed us with gifts even a fresh rose and lots of chocolate
I think it was a little joke on face masks because we got kind of gel beauty masks.
Really, some lovely gifts.
They were always trying to entertain us.
BI: When you did get home to Florida this week, what were the first things you did?
Gay: Well, play with our puppy. She's a four-year-old dog but we call her a puppy, Willoughby.
Then a great shower and our bed, of course.
BI: Is life back to normal?
Gay: No. I know we have lasting effects from this. First of all, we have back work to do. Our taxes are now delayed. We came back to a threat to turn off our electricity, which is really quite insulting. We've paid our bills for 40 years and one time we were a week late because we were in quarantine little things like that are very irritating.
Family and friends are all over us, and we're reassuring ourselves. We had to cancel a trip at the end of the month to Africa because that's just impossible to do.
I think we're all probably suffering from various stress syndromes. If you're used to taking charge of your own life, here were treated like nursery school children. We had to follow orders. That's hard to take.
I was having, and I'm still having pretty scary prison dreams. It's a primal fear, a fear of not being able to move or leave.
Peter and Cindy Molesky of Rome, New York.
Business Insider: How did you fill your days together?
Cindy: We had books and magazines that we had taken and just never had a chance to read so we did some of that
On the ship, they had increased all their movies. There were a lot of extra things to watch on TV. We stayed in our room. We didn't go walking on the promenade deck when we were allowed to.
They would let certain groups stretch their legs on the deck area, but we stayed in our room because we didn't want to take the chance.
We were in a balcony room, which was awesome, and my brother-in-law and sister-in-law were right next door and we had the balcony door open between the two rooms so the four of us kind of stayed together.
That made it a lot easier. it wasn't just the two of us trying to make conversation with just the two of us.
Actually the days went by really fast.
By the time I got to Texas, it seemed like most of the day was spent texting, emailing, calling family and friends, There was a huge, huge support group that kept us sane.
Peter: I spent most of my day playing Sudoku or watching TV.
Cindy spent several hours on the phone every day, just answering text messages.
Business Insider: Even with family next door, that's a lot of time together.
Cindy: I think we're kind of unique because I've heard so many other people say "uh I just needed some space to get away."
But we got married late in life this was my first marriage and his second but it would be like yelling at myself because we're so much alike it was almost like we were cloned.
We have the same interests so it wasn't like we had to fight over who's going to watch what program on TV.
In Lackland (the Texas base) they actually gave us two rooms.
If you wanted to, there was enough space where one person could watch TV in one room and the other could watch it in the other room, but we enjoy the same programs. We were still together even though we could have been separated.
Peter: I know we've talked to a number of different friends and relatives and they've said "I would have killed my wife" or "I would have killed my husband by now." We're very, very compatible and very happy together so it was easy.
Cindy: I think that's the secret, just finding somebody you like doing things with.
They say opposites attract but in our case, I think it's better when you like the same things and have the same interests.
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